Sunday, July 23, 2017

Our Week in Charleston

I have had on my "to do" for days now to blog about our mission trip week in Charleston.  I have amazing pictures to share and we certainly had a wonderful time, but after such a spiritual experience it is so hard to put into words how God showed up for all 47 of us. After listening to our youth share their experience in Charleston in worship this morning, I knew I was finally read to put it into words. 

Youth ministry is not easy.  At all.  But I feel like this is exactly where God has called me to be for this season of my life.  I love these kids and I feel so privileged to get a front row seat to what God is doing in their lives.
This was  David's first ever mission trip.  Here he is with Miss Mary -our church host.  She prayed with me several times over the phone before we arrived, prayed and met with our group each night after worship and she was awesome!!  She is also a talented worship leader and key board player:) David was able to go becaue Mike was able to take a week's vacation and go as well!  Last year Mike could not go because he was transitioning to his new job and I remember his coworkers told me that last year he was annoyed he was not with us.  Well this year Mike was on the trip!!!!!

This picture makes my heart leap for joy.  We never planned for Hope to go on this trip but God had a different plan and it was amazing to watch her little 8 year old heart worship and serve God.  We had two complete families with us and it was awesome.  These three girls under the age of 12 handled the late nights and very early mornings like seasoned pros.  Their bibles were open, their hearts were huge and they served God like the big kids.  She and I served at a daycamp in Charleston and we had such fun with the toddlers in the morning and the elementary kids in the afternoon.

This picture also touches my Momma heart.  Hope adores Kyle and looks up to him so much.  She loves basketball like Kyle.  She loves Lebron James because of Kyle and my prayer is that her brother will take advantage of her devotion and teach her about Jesus and serving others.  Kyle served at an apartment complex.  They offered kids in the housing projects a safe place to come and play games and connect with them in order to teach them about God.  Kyle's site was outside in the heat all day long.  

Each night we had worship with an amazing band and then a pastor would come preach.  It blessed my heart to see youth with their bibles open following along.  Hope forgot her bible one night and she asked Mike to find the scripture on his phone so she could follow along.
Joshua 24:15 says "as for me and my family we will serve the Lord" and I hope our children know that we are not perfect parents (way far from it) but we love them and we love our Lord.  It was such a blessing to serve together.  We as a family will forever have precious Charleston memories tucked in our hearts.
It was hot in Charleston and one day we were given a free afternoon to do something together as a group.We thought we would go to the beach with the kids during our 3.5 hours of free time to relax .  Well.... the kids had served so well and were so hot and tired they chose to stay on campus and nap, eat at a nearby mall, or swim.  I was such a proud youth leader that they realized this trip was about serving and not about playing on the beach.  I joked that even the pool was hot in Charleston!  We are mountain people and we are not used to the humidity and heat!
Hope corraling toddlers...
I felt so blessed that me and my girl got to spend the week together serving toddlers in Charleston.  I looked over one day and watched Hope put her little girl down for a nap and I almost starting weeping.  She talked so sweetly to her as she covered her up with her blanket and patted her back until she was asleep.

This trip was very emotional for this youth leader.  One night we had prayer stations placed around this beautiful reflecting pond outside of the chapel.  The youth had to write on the prayer wall who had helped them grow in their faith and also who they were praying for.  I allowed the youth to pray first and then I stepped up with Hope to write my names down of who had encouraged my faith along the way.  I then saw that several of our youth had written my name down.  I am teary now writing this.  I came undone.  Like snot flying kind of undone.

 To think that some of our youth put my name down as someone who has pointed them to Christ overwhelmed me.  No matter how much money we will ever make, what size house we have, what cars we  drive or what my bank statement says is nothing compared to seeing my name down on a prayer wall in sticky Charleston SC written by teeangers with colorful sharpies.  It made me realize that God has me right where he wants me.  Youth ministry is not glamourous, profitable or even easy but it is worth every single minute when you can show teens that in the middle of this crazy life there is a savior who is desperate to spend time with them.

This ole gal is not perfect and i have certainly had my fair share of screwups and made some bad decisions, but when I was 19 years old Jesus got a hold of me.  I got saved on a Sunday night at Calvary Baptist Church in Radford.  Since then life has thrown me some curve balls but I know who I belong to.  I desperately want our youth to see that I am not perfect but my Jesus is.  I am not always  faithful to Him but he is.  This song I got Saved is my new favorite song. It so perfectly sums up my night with Jesus back in 1995 ( I think).  I love the line "I've got Jesus how could I want more."  I want these youth to know that true success in life has nothing at all to do with world possessions but has to do with living a life that honors God and serves Him well.

Now you understand why it took me so long to blog about this trip.  This gal went there to show teens how to serve but got humbled when they made me remember that my job not to plan amazing outings. or feed them a lot, or all the other things that distract me in youth ministry.  My single and solitary job is to point them to God and let Him do the rest.  He is after all desperate to spend time with us all.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hikes,Hoops and Hope

Summer of 2017 has so far been so great that it has flown by!!  I am so thankful for summer because it gives us a chance to slow down (just a little) and take advantage of extra time together.  We love summer in our household! 

One of the awesome things we have done is take a sunset hike with the youth to Molly's Knob.  For you not so local folk, this is a HARD hike but has a view that makes it all worthwhile.  We left the church at 7 and we knew we had to be at the top by 8:15 to see the sun setting.  Talk about pressure because the hike is hard and the last .4 miles is STRAIGHT up.  Kyle hiked with me the whole time and he literally pushed me a few times to "encourage" me!

See I told you the view was totally worth the TORTURE to get to the top.  It was truly breathtaking!

Another joy of the summer has been watching our youth and my own kiddos serve at church through the Nurture program.  We were blessed this year and received a grant to fund this! I wrote the grant NEVER dreaming it would come through.  This program gives us the chance to serve children and it gives our youth a chance to serve in a tangible way in our community. Each child leaves each week with two new books and a backpack of food.  It exhausts me but it is totally worth it!

One of the joys of the summer has been watchng our high school basketball teams play in a summer league and attend two team camps together.  It amazes me that these coaches (who do not receive a coaching stipend until the season begins) organize and play ball to get ready for the season and to help the kids.  So far between summer league and team camps these boys have already played in 18 games with more on the schedule!  That is almost an entire season in three short weeks.  Our Kyle certainly has loved every single minute of it!  This summer he has played varisty and despite being extremely nervous the first two games he is doing well.
This red head keeps us laughing and was certainly entertaining us all at Hope's birthday lunch.  He is almost 13!!  I cannot wrap my head around that yet.

Pops and GG came down this past week to spend the day with us for Hope's birthday.  While GG was inside helping Hope learn her new piano piece, Pops was outside teaching Kyle how to change the oil in the golf cart.  Today being Father's Day I have to just say that God blessed me when he chose Guy Gilmore to be my Dad.  He may love to yell at referees, he may have a week bit of road rage at times, and he maybe the most accident prone person in America, but he is my Daddy and he rocks.  He is the most loyal and kind person around.  He loves Jesus and he is always there for us.

Today also being Father's Dad I cannot miss an opportunity to wish Mike a Happy Father's Day!  He sacrifices for all of us and we are so thankful for him!  He puts his family first every.single. day and he makes sure we all know "to do the right thing."

My pictures are out of order again, but Kyle's high school coach's wife captured this precious picture of Kyle with their son before one of our many games!  This little guy is a baller and he has been asked to be on Team  Xplosion for next year.  It is so cool that Kyle and this little guy will be playing for the same organization next year.
This is how summer 2017 has been treating us thus far!  We certainly love our pool time as well.

This little love turned 8 last week!  8!  How can this be?  It seems the baby of the family grows up quicker than the rest.  This little girl loves to serve the Lord and others, loves her some hoops as well, and loves the piano and good food.  She keeps us all organized and she is my right hand and best friend.  We are so thankful that God chose us to parent this girl.  May she always do what it right, love and serve others, and stay close to Jesus!  We love baby girl!
Captured this sweet moment of Pops showing Hope a new trick on her string-crows feet!  I am so thankful that summer allows us whole days with GG and Pops,learning new tricks and new life skills.  We are blessed buy busy this summer!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lessons from the Garden

One of the joys of Summer of 2017 has been the addition of our garden. We have been blessed to be part of the Homegrown program through our local community garden, Sprouting Hope.  I have wanted to garden for so long but just had no clue where to start.  Thankfully Robert through Sprouting Hope has been a patient and kind garden mentor to me and has taught me so much.  I knew I would enjoy the harvest of a garden, but I never dreamed that I would enjoy the journey so much.  There is something so fulfilling and therapeutic about digging in the dirt and working hard to feed your family in a healthy and organic way.

Here are my bunching onions and I actually harvested one tonight to use in my dinner.

Today Robert came to visit our garden as he does often to check in with us and to give us advice on how to keep the garden healthy.  Today he brought Candace from Grow Appalachia through Berea College in Kentucky who is a supporter financially to this program and Sprouting Hope.  She has a wealth of knowledge on organic gardening and she helped me so much today!  I am just so thankful for this opportunity to learn how to grow healthy and organic food for my family.  Having a child that had cancer has made me think of the environmental links to cancer and if I can help us be healthier with homegrown food, I am super thankful.
Here are my healthy and beautiful squash plants !  Tonight I gave the soil a shot of nitrogen using fish emulsion.  I planted my plants and seeds directly into compost that had chicken manure in it and now weeks later I gave it a fresh shot of nitrogen through fish emulsion.  Organic gardening is amazing but it certainly has some strong smells to it:)
Our potato plants that Dave and Hope planted themselves!  They are so proud of them.  We are fighting some annoying flea beetles on the potato plants but Robert has a safe and organic plan to get rid of those nasty things.  Notice also we planted marigolds around the border of our garden and we have a fence!! We have lots and lots and lots of bunnies and deer here on the golf course.  We want to feed our family and share with the community-not provide an all-you-can eat midnight buffet to the animals!
The garden has provided lots of family time as we have worked together to start from scratch.  Kyle helped us hoe the mounds in place for planting and he helped with the fence, David and Hope helped hoe and also planted all of our potatoes and some tomatoes.  Mike was the chief fence maker because by that point I was sunburned and exhausted!  I want my children to learn how to garden and to see the benefits of working hard for something so worthwhile.
My precious potato planters!

God has also used this garden to remind me of some solid biblical truths as I have spent hours and hours in the garden.  I was so proud of my bushy and lush tomato plants during one of Robert's visits.  He started pruning away all that beauty and I kind of sort of freaked out.  He took my full plants and made them look weak and thin.  He explained to me that we must prune well and often to keep the energy going to the produce not to useless stems which many around here call "suckers."

Then this past Sunday the pastor did a wonderful sermon on pruning using the scripture from John.

I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit.  For apart from me you can do notihing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned. 
John 15:5-6

That is so like God to use my tomato plants aw a great reminder to stay close to him. My life's ambition is to stay close to God and let Him use my life to bear much fruit for His Kingdom.  It is not all about me sitting around and looking all full and beautiful.  It is about me being pruned and used for His glory.  

I want my life to be used to point others to Christ.  I want to help the least and the lost.  I want to work hard to make my community stronger through volunteering and serving.  I want to use my garden to bless others less fortunate than us with fresh and healthy food.  I want to be a good wife and teach my children to Serve God and serve others all the days of their life.  I do not want to be a full plant that exists for my beauty but a pruned plant that produces fruit for Him.  

It is amazing that six rows of vegetables can teach us show much Godly wisdom.  Only God can use my tomato plants to remind me to point others to Him and to love my neighbor.  May I strive to be one of those pruned plants that produces much harvest!